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Sound Masking vs. Sound Absorption — Which Solution Is Right for Your Space?

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Author: Glen Fairbanks | President
Sound Masking vs. Sound Absorption — Which Solution Is Right for Your Space?

Sometimes it’s easy to pinpoint why your space is too loud — a nearby highway, city traffic or the shared public atrium next door. Sometimes, it’s a result of everyday office noise. Regardless of the source, as the decibel level rises, so does the volume of conversations, which can only make matters worse.

An uncomfortable acoustic environment can render an otherwise ideal space useless. Sound absorption products, however, mitigate noise pollution related to office machinery, traffic and loud voices, but what solutions are available and how do they compare?

One possible solution to a noisy space is sound masking. Sound masking can, in certain cases, be the practical answer, but how does it compare to sound absorption? When done correctly, sound absorption can be a highly effective way to create a comfortable acoustic environment. Let’s take a look.

What Is Sound Masking?

Sound masking is a technological approach to dealing with noise pollution. Sound masking works by adding more noise to a space, but the goal of sound masking isn’t to increase the volume. Sound masking employs strategically placed speakers emitting specialized, monitored sound to distract the ear from unwanted noise.

When Is Sound Masking the Right Choice?

Sound masking shines in quiet environments where sudden noises or private conversations are distracting and potentially disturbing, such as libraries or waiting rooms. Sound masking is a cost-effective option that’s easy to install and integrates easily into a wide range of spaces and aesthetics.

What is Sound Absorption?

Sound absorption is a physical approach that controls sound within a space using soft materials and surfaces to soak up sound waves and lower the overall ambient noise. Sound absorption products include acoustic wall panels, hanging rafts and freestanding panels across a wide range of shapes and sizes. Your organization can customize the size, color and graphics on many of these products. Decorative acoustic panels can be scaled for any size space and budget based on your space’s acoustic properties and can be installed at any point in the design process.

When Is Sound Absorption the Right Choice?

Sound absorption is arguably the most effective, versatile and visually pleasing noise control solution for most spaces. By removing excessive sound, issues and problems are solved directly instead of simply masked. With a wide variety of customizable products on the market, sound absorption serves not only its acoustic purpose, but it can also enhance a room’s aesthetics.

Which Solution Is Best for Me?

The answer depends on the room’s purpose, and the types and volumes of sound to be controlled. Most environments, including offices, restaurants and classrooms experience a full spectrum of sound — from very noisy to times of near silence. A combination of sound masking and sound absorption products may be the answer, but in most cases sound absorption products will offer a more comprehensive solution to acoustic problems.

DGI Is Here To Help

DGI takes pride in being at the forefront of communications and audio visual services, including sound management. Our AcoustiPrint, Primacoustics and Sustainable Sound product lines offer an almost infinitely customizable approach to acoustic management.

If you’re ready to design and configure the ideal sound absorption products, DGI is ready to help you navigate the process. Contact us to schedule a free sound consultation. Our experts will perform a RT60 Sound test to see how your spaces perform* in order to provide a custom decorative sound absorption product recommendation that’s right for your organization’s needs. You’ll receive a room acoustics report to determine how to best mitigate your acoustic challenges, and you’ll and rest easy with sound advice from DGI.

*Reverberation time is a measure of the time required for the sound to “fade away” in an enclosed area after the source of the sound has stopped. When it comes to accurately measuring reverberation time with a meter, the term T30, T20 or RT60 (an abbreviation for Reverberation Time 60dB) is used. T30/T20/RT60 provides an objective reverberation time measurement.

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Glen Fairbanks | President

Glen joined DGI in 1994, just as the large format digital printing industry was emerging. He was originally hired as a telemarketer, quickly rose to inside sales, then managed the customer service department. From there, Glen moved to outside sales, becoming a top performer and exceeding goals by selling over a million dollars several years in a row.

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